Students and Welfare Benefits

Welfare Benefits Advice

Full time students are generally not entitled to welfare benefits however there are exceptions for the following groups:
1) Students with Children
2) Students with Disabilities or who have children with disabilities
3) Students with Partners
4) Students who have deferred due to illness (generally a waiting period of 28 weeks applies)

The benefits system is changing a lot at the moment and the area you live in and your situation will have an effect on the benefits you can claim.

Below is a brief introduction to some of the benefits that are available.

Housing Benefit:
If you fall into one of the categories above then you may be able to get help with the cost of your rent.  Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit that is awarded on a sliding scale so you may not get full help with you rent but you may get some.  You must apply directly to your Local Authority for help with the cost of your rent, if you live within Plymouth City Council then they have an online application process:

Whichever Local Authority you live in you will only every receive help with the cost of your rent up to the Local Housing Allowance, you will be responsible for the cost any rent over that amount.  Find out your Local Housing Allowance here:

With all of the changes that are happening with Student Finance England and NHS Bursary’s, we have seen quite a few students who have been incorrectly assessed for their Housing Benefit.  If you do not think your assessment has been carried out correctly, or you would like us to check it, then please make an appointment and bring any relevant paperwork with you. 

Universal Credit: 
This benefit is in time due to encompass most of the benefits that people of working age can claim.  Details of the roll out for Universal Credit can be found here:

Devon and Cornwall are now full service areas for Universal Credit, this means that if you have a change of circumstances that triggers a new claim, you will be automatically moved on to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit treats student income very differently from previous legacy benefits such as Housing Benefit, and it can leave students particularly significantly worse off.  If you have a change of circumstances then please contact the Advice Centre to find out what the consequences of your move to Universal Credit will be.

You may also wish to check the below mentioned link for the most recently updated information for students:


Council Tax:
Students on a full time course are exempt from paying Council Tax this includes students who are repeating, and deferred, so if you have received a Council Tax bill then make an appointment, please bring any paperwork that you have received with you.

If there are non-students in your household then they may be able to claim Council Tax Support to assist with the bill.  Each Local Authority can set their own rules for who can apply for Council Tax Support.  Details of the scheme and how to apply for Plymouth City Council can be found here:

Child Tax Credits:
If you have children and an income of less than £35,000, (depending on the amount of children you have) then you could be receiving Child Tax Credits.  The income you receive from Student Finance England, with the exception of Adult Dependant Grant, does not count as income for the purpose of claiming Tax Credits.  However, failure to ensure the income figures you provide are accurate may result in an overpayment.  At the moment if your income (or joint income) increases by more than £2500 then you must inform HMRC of this change.

Working Tax Credits:
Students are not exempt from claiming Working Tax Credits, however, you must still meet the eligibility criteria surrounding, your age, the number of hours you work and the duration of your employment.  More details can be found here:

Students with Disabilities:
Generally in order to claim Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit whilst a student you must first be in receipt of either Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payments (PIP).  PIP replaced DLA a few year ago so any new applications would be for PIP.  PIP is awarded based on the need of the individual, it is not means tested and it will not affect your Student Finance.  Details of who is eligible for PIP and how to apply can be found here:

PIP can be difficult to claim and we would encourage anyone completing the application process to get in touch with a Disability Rights group for assistance.  In Plymouth you can contact the Disability Information and Advice Centre (DIAC),-4137733,27&tbm=lcl&rldimm=16486869861400379347&tbs=lrf:!2m1!1e2!2m1!1e3!3sEAE,lf:1,lf_ui:2

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

There are two different types of ESA, one is based on your National Insurance contributions in the last year and the other is means tested. ESA is claimed when you have a limited capability to work, and is confirmed by a medical assessment.   Details of the eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found here:

As a student, in addition to meeting the eligibility criteria for this benefit, you must also be in receipt of one of the following benefits, Disability Living Allowance (DLA); Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Armed Forces Independence Payment.


Income Support

Lone parents with children under the age of 5 used to be able to claim Income Support over the summer vacation period.  Under the new system of Universal Credit you will no longer be able to claim Income Support for this period, instead you would trigger a move to Universal Credit.  This could leave you significantly worse off during term time and we would encourage you to contact us prior to the summer vacation.


If you would like advice on benefits or you would like to know how your Student Finance will effect benefits you already receive, then please contact the Advice Centre for more information.


You can contact us on:

Tel: 01752 588373 / 0800 953 0155